The most spectacular meteor shower of the year will take place on Monday night when astronomers expect up to 50 multicolored meteors to flash across the sky each hour.
The shooting stars, known as the Geminid shower, should be visible around the world beneath clear, dark skies, according to Prof. Alan Marscher, chairman of the astronomy department at Boston University.A few meteors from the shower may be spotted on Sunday and Tuesday nights as well.
"It's really much more important to the public than to scientists," said Marscher. He said the meteors travel too quickly to allow scientists to take any meaningful measurements.
"It's the kind of astronomical event that the public can really relate to. Amateur astronomers love it," he said.
David Huestis of Skyscrapers, an amateur astronomy group, said the Geminid shower is of special interest because the meteors can appear with varying tinges of color.
Roughly two-thirds of the meteors will be white and one-quarter yellow, but the rest may appear to be blue, orange, green or red.
Some of the meteors also explode as they hit the Earth's atmosphere at 78,000 miles per hour, producing "fireballs."
The shower, which comes at the same time each December, "has been getting better and better each year," Huestis said.
He said the best time for viewing will be after the moon sets. The moon's light can overpower the flash of the fainter fireballs, as can nearby city or street lights.
The meteors will be most brilliant after midnight, however, when the Earth starts turning into the direction of the shower, rather than away.
Marscher recommends that viewers look at the eastern part of the sky and said a telescope should not be used or the total effect will be lost.